Turkey: 166-year Prison Sentence for
Kurdish Journalist to be Quashed?
February 21, 2011
DIYARBAKIR, The Kurdish region of Turkey, —
The Court of Appeals Public Chief Prosecution
demanded to overturn the heavy prison sentence
handed down to journalist Vedat Kurşun, former
Editor-in-Chief of the Kurdish Azadiya Welat
newspaper. The 5th High Criminal Court of
Diyarbakir, a Kurdish-majority city in south-eastern
Turkey, had sentenced Kurşun to imprisonment of
166.5 years on
charges of "spreading propaganda for the PKK", the
armed Kurdistan Workers Party recognized as a
terrorist organization by the European Union, the
USA and other countries.
The Public Chief Prosecutor of the Court of Appeals,
Murat Kızılyar, criticized the verdict given by the
Diyarbakir court and declared that Article 7/2 of
the Anti-Terror Law (TMY) could not be applied 103
times to Kursun but that the journalist could be
sentenced under the according provision only once.
In his plea, Prosecutor Kızılyar put forward, "The
court decided for the execution of the decision as a
single offence committed by the defendant in several
consecutive issues of the newspaper he was
editor-in-chief of. It is understood that the
propaganda for the terrorist organization and its
executives were published at different times".
Vedat Kursun, former Editor-in-Chief of Azadiya
Welat, the only Kurdish-language newspaper in
The Public Chief
Prosecutor believes that it has not been considered
that a chain offence was constituted according to
Article 43/1 of the Turkish Criminal Law (No. 5237).
The Chief Prosecutor opposed the decision and
informed the Court of Appeals 9th Chamber on 2
December 2010. "The propaganda for a terrorist
organisation and its executives included in several
consecutive issues of the newspaper the defendant
worked for as the chief editor did not constitute
the offence of committing a crime on behalf of a
terrorist organization. Therefore, a conviction for
this crime was decreed without regarding the
aforementioned elements of crime as constituting a
The Court of Appeals 9th Chamber is going to
announce its decision on the case of the journalist
on 2 March.
On 13 May 2010, the Diyarbakir 5th High Criminal
Court sentenced Kurşun to 166 years and six months
in jail on charges of "membership of the PKK
organization" and "spreading propaganda for an
In accordance with the final speech of the
prosecutor, the court ruled for maximum prison terms
of twelve years and eight months under allegations
of "membership of an illegal organization" and for a
103-count prison sentence because of "propaganda".
Kurşun has got 32 trials pending against him. The
journalist was facing a total prison sentence of up
525 years due
to the prosecutor's demand of a103-count sentence.
The charges stem from certain terms used in the
articles such as "Kurdistan", "guerrilla", "martyr",
"leader of the Kurdish people" or "respectable
Öcalan" besides the publishing of notes made during
an interview with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah
of the conditions of detention in Imralı prison
where Öcalan serves his sentence and announcements
of PKK executives.
Journalist Kurşun was arrested on 30 January 2009 on
Atatürk Airport in Istanbul because he had not given
his statement in another trial. Kurşun was later on
detained and taken to the Diyarbakır D Type Prison.
He is one of the laureates of the 2010 Press Freedom
Award imparted by the Turkish Journalists
Association. Kursun is currently still in prison.
Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state,
which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish
state in the south east of the country.
But now its aim is the creation an autonomous region and more cultural rights
for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more
than 20 million.
PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in
Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey,
reducing pressure on the detained PKK president, stopping military action
against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.
PKK demanded to stop military and political operations and to release
Kurdish politicians who are unjustly detained. The organization also requested
to enable imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's active participation in the
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